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Matters of Public Importance: Sustainable Health System


This budget has revealed that we have a government which is committed to record levels of funding for health. What this budget clearly states is that we are committed to safeguarding the sustainability of universal health care for generations to come. This is an MPI which flies in the face of that truth.


The truth about health funding is that hospital funding is increasing by over $5 billion over the next four years—$5 billion in real money, in costed and affordable increases that we will actually be able to deliver for Australians. That is not a cut to health. Budget papers clearly demonstrate there is no cut. This misleading of the truth by the opposition is affecting the public adversely. Budget facts include funding to states for hospitals to increase over nine per cent each year over the next three years and a further six per cent in year 4.


Now in my electorate of Barton, the St George Hospital services a large amount of constituents and is one of the biggest hospitals in the area. The sad truth is that until a Liberal government came into power, it had not seen any funding. This was a terrible shame for the individuals who needed the services the most. And the truth about health funding is that this government is not only funding health at record levels but is investing in a world-class Medical Research Future Fund, which will reach $20 billion of funding by 2019-20.


The Medical Research Future Fund will complement existing establishments like the St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation in Barton that will truly aid preventative health. These institutions are at the forefront of preventative health, something the opposition purports to safeguard but contradicts itself by objecting to these initiatives. It is very short-sighted. The truth about health funding is that you cannot claim the moral high ground on health funding when you make uncosted promises for which you know you will not be in government for when it unravels. That is real pain inflicted on unsuspecting hard-working Australians.


With regards to a modest GP co-payment, I would like to refer to the words of another honourable member by quoting the wise words of the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, the honourable Andrew Leigh, in 2003:


As economists have shown, the ideal model involves a small co-payment—not enough to put a dent in your weekly budget, but enough to make you think twice before you call the doc. And the idea is hardly radical.


Well, this government agrees with Dr Leigh: the idea of a small co-payment is hardly radical. It hardly robs a nation of universal healthcare. It would take a lot more than $7 to fulfil the radical and dishonest premise on which this MPI is founded. It would take a lot more than a small co-payment, which is a feature of equitable healthcare services all around the world in great social-democratic countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, and our neighbour New Zealand, to undermine universal healthcare.


The government further agrees with and applauds the sensible notion first put forward by the Hawke government in 1991 when a small co-payment of $3.50 was proposed with the cooperation of the National Health Strategy director, now the Member for Jagajaga. I look forward to seeing the customary respect shown by the opposition to their Labor forebears of 1991, who had the reason and the insight to look at a small co-payment as a way of safeguarding and sustaining universal health care for all Australians in this great and equitable nation. That was not an attack on Medicare then, and it is not an attack on Medicare now, but a bid to sustain our healthcare system for generations of Australians to come.


The World Health Organisation itself, a body for which Labor would have the utmost respect, I imagine, has ruled that a co-payment is not incompatible with principles of universal healthcare or the right of humanity to essential medical treatments. Those opposite know very well that not all elements of health care are free to the user. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a concessional scheme, requires a small fee, but Labor has never claimed that the PBS is an affront to universal health care. The truth is that receiving treatments free of charge is not the substance of universal healthcare; that substance is accessibility.


Sadly, Labor is not concerned with the sustainability of Medicare or with mapping the road to surplus and security for our finances, which include our government funded services. Labor is only concerned with finding the most fear-inspiring and sensational way to frame reasonable, sensible government proposals and flinging them towards a nervous public. I reject the premise of the MPI and reiterate that health care which is accessible to all Australians is a true measure of universal health care.



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